Callaway Colleges

Lady Blue Jays' comeback falls short in semifinal loss at SLIAC tournament

LOUISVILLE, Ky. —The Westminster College Lady Blue Jays’ furious second-half comeback simply ran short on time.

No. 4 seed Westminster shaved a 17-point halftime deficit to three with under a minute to play, but wasn’t able to see its rally to fruition in a 70-64 loss to No. 1 Spalding University on Friday night in the semifinals of the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference postseason tournament.

The Lady Blue Jays were down 35-18 at the break and twice trailed by 19 points in the opening 2 minutes of the second half. Westminster was then behind 56-41 after the Golden Eagles’ Kerstin Hayes hit two free throws with 5:16 to play, but the Lady Blue Jays charged back into the contest on the strength of a 20-8 run.

Sophomore guard Sadie Theroff punctuated the outburst by connecting on a 3-pointer with :47 left as Westminster pulled within 64-61. Spalding countered with four unanswered points to extend its lead back to seven, but Lady Blue Jays sophomore guard Mackenzie Haddox’s trey with :04 remaining made it 68-64.

Westminster, though, was forced to foul and Jessica Guy converted a pair of free throws with :02 to go as the Golden Eagles sealed the victory.

Freshman forward Andrea Zalis was 6-of-11 from the field — including 4-of-7 from 3-point range — and tallied 19 points to spark four players in double figures for the Lady Blue Jays, who were the returning SLIAC tournament champions but ended their season with a 13-12 record. Senior guard Leigh Ann Lutz — playing her final game for Westminster — and Haddox chipped in with 11 points, while Theroff added 10.

The Lady Blue Jays shot just 33 percent (22-of-67) as a team, including a dismal 29 percent (9-of-31) from behind the arc, and finished with only nine turnovers. Theroff pulled down a team-high seven rebounds as Westminster was outrebounded by a decisive 52-37 margin.

Lutz was the Lady Blue Jays’ lone pick on the all-SLIAC first team, while junior forward Danielle Smulczenski was selected to the conference’s all-sportsmanship squad. Westminster also received the SLIAC Sportsmanship Award for the third year in a row.

“I am proud of this team,” Lady Blue Jays head coach Tracey Braden said. “They displayed tremendous heart and great character tonight. It didn’t end how we wanted or expected it to, but we respect (Spalding) Coach (Charlie) Just and his team, and we wish them the very best.”

Guy — who made 5-of-9 shots and 11-of-14 free throws — registered a game-high 21 points for the Golden Eagles, who avenged a 56-53 home loss to Westminster in the regular-season finale Feb. 22. Hayes also contributed 19 points Friday night as Spalding overcame a 33-percent (19-of-58) shooting performance and committed only eight turnovers.

In Friday night’s other semifinal, No. 3 seed Webster University tripped No. 2 Eureka (Ill.) College 67-63. Spalding and Webster played for the tournament title Saturday afternoon and the SLIAC’s automatic bid to the NCAA Division III national tournament.

Men’s basketball

Spalding 64

Westminster 54

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The fourth-seeded Blue Jays were outscored 12-0 over the final 5 minutes, 8 seconds in succumbing to the No. 1 Golden Eagles on Thursday night in the semifinals of the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference postseason tournament.

Westminster College trailed 30-29 at halftime and fell behind by seven points at 44-37 with 13:49 left. The Blue Jays, though, responded with a 17-8 run and went in front 54-52 on senior guard Jordan Jones’ jumper with 5:08 to play.

Unfortunately, that would turn out to be Westminster’s final points of the game. Spalding University pulled even on Thomas Blakemore’s layup at the 4:31 mark and took the lead for good at 57-54 on Brandon Goeing’s 3-pointer with 3:57 remaining.

Junior guard Brandon Moore — who was 5-of-8 from the field and 3-of-6 from behind the arc — connected for a game-high 15 points to guide four players in double figures for the Blue Jays, who ended the season with four straight losses to finish at 14-12. Junior guard Verdis Lee Jr. — a Fulton graduate — was next with 12 points, while Jones and fellow senior guard Joe James both chipped in with 11.

Westminster, which lost both of its meetings with the Golden Eagles during the regular season, shot 41 percent (19-of-46) as a team but were plagued by 17 turnovers Friday night. Senior guard Travis Cleveland grabbed a team-high seven rebounds as the Blue Jays were easily outrebounded by a 39-28 margin.

James — capping off his Westminster career — was chosen to the all-SLIAC first team, while Lee and Moore were both second-team picks. James and Lee were also selected to the conference’s all-defensive team, while Jones — also completing his career with the Blue Jays — was chosen to the SLIAC’s all-sportsmanship team.

Westminster also earned the conference’s Sportsmanship Award as a team.

William Barber topped Spalding with 14 points Friday night, while Domonique Sangester added 13 and Quayshaun Hamilton had 12. The Golden Eagles shot 41 percent (23-of-56) from the field and recorded 10 turnovers.

No. 2 seed Webster University raced past No. 3 MacMurray (Ill.) College 79-64 in Thursday night’s other semifinal. Spalding and Webster squared off Saturday afternoon for the tournament championship and the SLIAC’s automatic bid to the NCAA Division III national tournament.

William Woods 57

Hannibal-LaGrange 53

HANNIBAL — Senior guards Blake Burgess and Jonathon Nutt combined for 34 points and the Owls rallied in the final minute to stop a two-game losing streak with Thursday night’s AMC win over the Trojans.

William Woods University carried a 28-21 advantage into halftime, but found itself down by six points with 2 minutes, 37 seconds to play. The Owls replied with seven unanswered points and took the lead for good when sophomore guard Jayson Saldana knocked down a 3-pointer to make it 51-50 with :48 remaining.

Hannibal-LaGrange University cut its deficit to two at 55-53 when Jay Jones made a pair of free throws with :05 to go, but Nutt answered by connecting on two free throws with :04 left to clinch the win for William Woods.

Burgess — who was 7-of-14 from the field — topped the Owls (8-21, 6-13 American Midwest Conference) with a game-high 18 points, while Nutt finished with 16. William Woods, which swept the season series with the Trojans, shot just 37 percent (19-of-51) as a team but committed only eight turnovers.

“Blake and Jonathon played really well for us,” Owls head coach Nick Totta said. “They were the difference in the game.”

Burgess also pulled down a game-high 10 rebounds as the two teams battled to a 32-32 standoff on the boards.

Jones and Daniel Piper produced 15 points apiece for Hannibal-LaGrange, which shot a woeful 35 percent (20-of-58) from the field but had just nine turnovers.

William Woods ended the regular season with an AMC contest at No. 6 Freed-Hardeman (Tenn.) University late Saturday afternoon. Results were not available at press time.

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